RE: Looking for re-packaging publishing app

Subject: RE: Looking for re-packaging publishing app
From: mlist -at- safenet-inc -dot- com
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Wed, 10 May 2006 10:18:38 -0400

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Ron Hearn [mailto:RHearn -at- cucbc -dot- com]
> So the sales-eng type wants to be able to add to or modify documents
> that Tech Pubs produces and then deliver customized docs to the their
> intended audiences? This would scare the pants off me. The idea of
> someone taking my docs, changing and then releasing them would mean I
> won't know what the user is seeing. Unless of course, they
> show me what
> they've done. But then it's too late to change if they stray from the
> established style guide or other conventions, not to mention what the
> writing skills of those "customizing" the docs. And what if they
> introduce an error into the doc. Who is accountable for it - you or
> them?
> I think you need to keep as much control as you can of your
> docs. Try to
> select a single-source product with conditional capability that will
> allow you to customize the docs.

I am _one_ techwriter at my location, loosely part of a group
that's loosely managed by someone at head office, but scattered
around the world (I've never met the other techwriters in the
company, nor even shaken hands with that manager).

We each [relatively] independently create and update our
own document sets for the products of our respective divisions,
occasionally taking on "outside" stuff (helping with overloads,
new acquisitions, etc.)

Meanwhile, Marketing group lives at head office (not out here
in the hinterlands) and produces their own bumpf.

Sales people, however, and Sales Engineering work with ALL
the products of the company. The Sales-Eng folks do things
like combining products from various parts of the company
in new and occasionally interesting ways, to meet the
actual needs of new and prospective customers. That is,
they are on the spot with the customer and know what they
need. I don't. All I know is what we've produced in one
little corner of the company, and a bit about how that
handful of products has served/been-used-by some customers
in the past.

I don't have to care what happens to my documents once
I kick them out the door (beyond the fact that they be
useful to the people who buy my specific products).
Each released document goes into a repository; thus
I can prove what I released, and when. If somebody
does something liability-inviting, the shadow doesn't
reach me. At least not unless they did something so
awful that it affected the company's fortunes drastically.

We can't simply hamstring the Sales-Eng people. They are
our front-line technical resource - the people that our
prospective customers rely upon to come up with the
working examples of our products working with the
customers' (or third-party) applications to produce
the desired result. When it's stuff that's been
repeatedly done before, we already have it as part
of the regular documentation and the ordinary sales
reps can just point. Sales-Eng does the hand-holding
and midwifing (word?) of combinations and permutations
that haven't been met before. They (and the sales reps
with whom they work) don't thrive by just throwing
a sprinkling of our product brochures at a prospective
customer - they have to demonstrate that we have a
combination that addresses the customer's business
problem... which may be a specific business problem
that was not envisioned when our existing products
were designed. Thus they want to mix and match and
select the relevant portions of existing documents
to present a sellable "solution" to the customer.

Personally, I think it's great that my docs can have
more than one use, and can contribute to bringing in
new revenue.

Sales-Eng people may be optimistic, but they are
realists. Unlike certain Marketing and Biz-dev types,
they don't get to push vaporware. They have to
cobble together something that actually works for
the customer.

While it would be nice to be able to drop my schedule
and go play in the Sales-Eng sandbox whenever they
had a hot prospect, that's not something I can do.
However, Stuart had a point that finding ways to
allow the customization while preserving quality is
a goal worth pursuing.

As for what Paul was saying, well, substitute a
knowledgeable Sales Engineer for the Marketing
guys. Our offering includes a software development
kit, and part of the job of Sales Eng is to help
the potential customer to see that our products
can [be customized to / be made the basis to] meet
their needs.
The particular Sales-Eng guy who was making the
request is looking for output docs (not source)
and wants to grab selected bits from several (which
might be in different formats), mush them together
in a "solution" paper for his customer, and maybe
leave room for the customer to annotate. This gives
the customer a sense that there's a direct, relatively
straightforeward way to do what they want.
In contrast, when somebody receives actual product
and has my actual WebHelp, they've got fifty things
that are useful to them and a thousand that they
can pretty-well ignore... but that are useful info
for other people who might use our product in other
ways. That's the beauty and the curse of having
a flexible product.

Gene captured the point perfectly.


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